Given that transportation generates 23% of global CO2 emissions, a transition to electric vehicles appears to be the best way to achieve a long-term improvement in air quality, with a 95% reduction in CO2 emissions and the elimination of nitrous oxide and fine particle emissions.
Compensating for the limitations of electric vehicles
The development of electric vehicles is currently limited by two weaknesses: their limited range (100 to 300 km depending on usage) and the downtime required for a full charge. Energy specialists have also estimated that supplying one million battery-powered electric vehicles would require the equivalent of a nuclear power plant’s capacity.
The principle of fuel cells
Fuel cells, which run on hydrogen, can eliminate these issues: when oxygen comes into contact with hydrogen, it can generate electricity and water (principle of the fuel cell). A hydrogen-powered vehicle can cover 500 to 600 km, a distance comparable to a conventional vehicle, without stopping, and emits only water vapor. Recharging at a special station takes just 3 to 5 minutes.
Reduced environmental impact
Fuel cells do require rare metals such as platinum, but in quantities comparable to those required to manufacture a catalytic converter for a conventional vehicle (a part which hydrogen-powered vehicles don’t need). The hydrogen used is produced in one of two ways: over 90% is currently produced from hydrocarbons using steam reforming. While this process is inexpensive, it does generate greenhouse gases. The second method is completely carbon-free: hydrogen is produced by water electrolysis using renewable energy. This technique, which is currently being rolled out, should soon be competitively priced.
Michelin and hydrogen: A 15-year story
Hydrogen is a natural fit for Michelin’s approach to sustainable mobility: it eliminates CO2 emissions, improves air quality, furthers the energy transition, and is appropriate for all uses.
A mature technology
This technology has reached maturity, but as it is fine-tuned it will offer even better performance and reliability. Making it available everywhere, for all types of transportation, will require the input of all industrial and institutional players throughout the value chain as well as a sufficiently dense network of hydrogen charging stations.
Symbio FCell and IMECA
As a shareholder since 2014, we support Symbio FCell, the innovative French SME behind the first hydrogen range extender. The device can be used to convert any electric vehicle into an electric/hydrogen hybrid. This approach encourages fast adoption of hydrogen technology, with no need to wait for new vehicles to be produced.
Our subsidiary IMECA is providing support to Symbio FCell as it industrializes its technology. In 2016, Engie joined us as a shareholder, bringing its expertise in zero carbon hydrogen production and distribution infrastructures.
A commitment to uniting the sector
Michelin supports the hydrogen industry across all levels. The Group is a member of Hydrogen Europe’s FCH JU, which brings together all European industrial players, researchers and national organizations; the AFHYPAC (French Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association), the AVERE, which works to implement electric mobility, and Tenerrdis, a competitive cluster involving numerous hydrogen players. It also fully supports the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region’s “Zero Emission Valley” project, which aims to make the region the European leader in hydrogen-powered mobility and promote the technology.
Last but not least, our historic love of competition and the way it pushes the limits of technology has led us to partner with Green GT, which produces the only electric hydrogen race car. Putting fuel cells through the grueling conditions of endurance racing will help us offer future customers a safer, higher-performing technology.
A growing technology worldwide
Japan, South Korea and China are already strongly committed to hydrogen, and several manufacturers in these countries already offer commercial models. They have also implemented highly favorable tax benefits and subsidies. China, for example, has established quotas and now reserves purchase subsidies, which were previously granted for all electric vehicles, for hydrogen vehicles.
Europe is beginning to move faster in the same direction. France’s hydrogen mobility sector, for example, is now operational. It is implementing a simultaneous deployment strategy for vehicles and charging stations, targeting regions with proven potential. This will enable a quick transition to hydrogen at a local level, while laying the groundwork for a future national network.